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How mindfulness can ignite a sustainability mindset

Sustainability is a popular term these days. But what does it actually mean to you? Do you think of swearing off plastic bags and having a pantry full of jars? Of cutting out meat or shopping at op shops? Or is the desire to live sustainably a feeling? A fire in your bones or a deeply felt emotion that pricks at your eyes and makes your lips tremble?

When we think of our planet, our heaving, breathing, living home, it is essential that we feel. And more than just guilt for not buying organic. We must shift from knowing intellectually that we’re facing an environmental crisis, to experiencing it on a personal level - and this is where mindfulness comes in. Like sustainability, mindfulness is a popular word, and easy to misunderstand. Defined as a state of being aware or conscious of your experience, it is our basic human ability to be present in this moment.

When we’re being mindful, our mind and its thoughts are included in our awareness, yes. But we can observe them, arising and passing away alongside body sensations, feelings and emotions. Developing a mindfulness practice means we start to bring a greater awareness to everything we do, and that includes our relationship with the natural world.

Let’s use an example. Bring to mind a place of peace for you, in nature. It may be the quiet brilliance of sunrise, or the dappled light and sweet scent of a softly cushioned pine forest. The crash of the surf or birdsong weaving through bush. Focussed as you are on the beauty of this moment, you are utterly undistracted, and connected with nature.  

This gentle place that consumes your entire attention, is mindfulness. It allows you to feel everything on a visceral level, as it is. Each of us holds this inside of us, this soft presence which is capable only of reverence, and which feels fully the pain of destruction and exploitation. By developing and committing to a mindfulness practice, we can access this state of awareness more and more throughout our day. The best place to start is with meditation, and from here, with practice, it ripples out.

It’s this internal part of us that needs to be ignited when we think about what’s happening to the natural world. This is the state we can, and must, reside in when we think of how we can live more sustainably. When we are mindful, we start to really get it. We start to understand that we don’t just live on Mother Earth, but are a part of her intricate living web. And that there are real steps we can take to help her find her balance again.

It doesn’t matter whether you think of yourself as a ‘spiritual’ person. Every single one of us has this childlike awe. Mindfulness and meditation can help us relate to our ecological crisis on more than just an intellectual level, truly feeling the pain of the damage we’ve done.

Mindfulness helps us to find a powerful intention to take action, with the ferocity of a protector who understands the value of what stands to be saved. From this place, it’s not enough to simply sign petitions - it’s from here that we each find our own way to make an impact in saving the planet. So learn to practise mindfulness, show up to your daily practice, and let this fuel your fire and your purpose.  

“I thought the earth remembered me,

she took me back so tenderly,

arranging her dark skirts, her pockets

full of lichens and seeds.

I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,

nothing between me and the white fire of the stars

but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths

among the branches of the perfect trees.

All night I heard the small kingdoms

breathing around me, the insects,

and the birds who do their work in the darkness.

All night I rose and fell, as if in water,

grappling with a luminous doom. By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times

into something better.”

Mary Oliver

Blog post created by Georgia Merton ( @georgiamerton)

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For those finding a deeper calling to mindful sustainability, we recommend the podcast @forthewild. Also, if you are interested in learning more about mindfulness courses or classes, email:

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